A district police chief in Battambang province hit back on Sunday after his superiors fired him on Friday for being out of the province when a brutal home invasion occurred last Wednesday.
Phan Channara was removed from his post as Kamrieng district police chief, with officials saying it was indefensible that he had not been present at the time of the armed robbery, which left one dead and two seriously injured.
Deputy provincial police chief San Hak said on Sunday that Mr. Channara was removed because when the crime happened “we did not know where he was.”
“This is a special case because usually all the [police chiefs] must be at their units when the problem happens, in order to lead the forces quickly to carry out an intervention,” he said.
He said Mr. Channara’s deputy, Chhor Keun, had been promoted to acting district police chief and they had not decided on a permanent replacement. Mr. Channara, meanwhile, was demoted to a “minor staff” position at provincial police headquarters, he said.
Mr. Channara said that he joined the party of a customs official friend in neighboring Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet city and appointed his deputy to take charge in his absence. But though he was away from his post, he claimed he was already en route back to his home district when he got the call, arriving shortly after the robbers had left.
“I arrived 20 minutes after the incident, and even before I arrived at the scene I already reported it to the provincial police chief and ordered my officers to investigate at the scene,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean when the robbery happened I was still drinking in Poipet. I already had left and was close to the police station,” he said.
Mr. Channara said a “jealous” colleague had exaggerated the situation, lying to their superiors by saying he went to Poipet to “go for a walk and sleep with women.”
The ousted police chief also pointed out that he had done a great deal for the district since his appointment in June 2014, including securing $40,000 in charitable donations to build a new headquarters.
“I want my superiors to reconsider because I helped the unit a lot. But when I have minor problem, they punished me seriously,” he said.
Following a spate of armed robberies in December, Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered provincial police chiefs to step up efforts to investigate and apprehend offenders or risk being stripped of their positions and ranks.
On Tuesday, National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun called a meeting to discuss the scourge of violent robberies, during which the interior minister’s orders were reiterated.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for right group Licadho, said he thought the sacking of Mr. Channara appeared to be driven by provincial-level authorities who feared Mr. Kheng’s warning.
“I think they removed the district police chief because they feared the provincial level would be removed,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
“If a lot of crime happens at the district level, it must be the responsibility also of the provincial police chief,” he added.
“But if he [Mr. Channara] went somewhere without informing anyone and was careless with his job that is his mistake.”
Provincial police chief Sar Thet could not be reached for comment.